Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Manifesto For Secure Tolerance

unz |  In 2010, Harvard duo Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons published The Invisible Gorilla, which detailed their study of the human capacity to overlook even the most obvious things. In one of their experiments, Chabris and Simons created a video in which students wearing white and black t-shirts pass a basketball between themselves. Viewers were asked to count the number of times the players with the white shirts passed the ball, and many were later very satisfied to find that they were accurate in their counting. This satisfaction was tainted, however, when they were asked if they had spotted “the gorilla.” Amidst considerable confusion, the video would then be replayed for the puzzled viewers, who were stunned to see a man in a gorilla suit walk among the students and balls, take up a position in the center of the screen, and wave at the camera. They’d missed him entirely in their initial viewing. The study highlighted the capacity for humans to become fixated on set tasks, events, or other distractions, and miss even the most elaborate and remarkable of occurrences.

When it comes to Jewish activism, and especially Jewish activism in the area of censorship and mass migration, I fear that the same dynamics are at work. Panicked by this or that website or YouTube channel being defunded or banned, we miss the ‘Invisible Gorilla’ — a plan of action far more horrifying and deadly in its implications than any single act of censorship.

There are essentially two forms of censorship. The hard kind we are very familiar with. It consists in the banning or removal of websites, videos, books, podcasts, and social media accounts. It extends to defunding and deplatforming, and it reaches its apogee in the banning of activists from entering certain countries, in the arrest of activists on spurious grounds, and in the development of new laws with harsh criminal penalties for speech. These methods are dangerous and rampant, and I myself have fallen victim to several of them.

I think, however, that softer, more diffuse methods of censorship are even more insidious and perhaps even more catastrophic. We could consider, for example, the manipulation of culture so that even if certain speech is not illegal and carries no legal repercussions, it nevertheless leads to the loss of employment, the destruction of education opportunities, and the dissolving of one’s relationships. This is a form of cultural self-censorship, involving the modification of in-group standards, that has demonstrable Jewish origins. “Soft” censorship can also take the form of socio-cultural prophylaxis. Take, for example, the recent initiative of the U.S. State Department to initiate a drive to engage in the global promotion of philo-Semitic (pro-Jewish) attitudes. I really don’t believe that this will play out in the manner the State Department hopes, and I watch with interest to see precisely what the methodologies of this policy will be. I sincerely doubt its prospects for success. But what other way can this be interpreted than as a preventative measure, obstructing the growth of organic attitudes that, let’s face it, are more likely to skew to the anti-Jewish? Finally, isn’t it in the nature of contemporary culture, with its emphasis on entertainment, consumption, and sex, to be the perfect environment in which to hide many “Invisible Gorillas”? Isn’t it a whirlwind of fixations and distractions, replete with untold numbers of “woke” viewers happy to report that they’ve been enthusiastically counting passes and have the accurate number? Isn’t it rather the axiom of our time that, from the idiotic Left to the idiotic Right, Invisible Gorillas stroll freely and unhindered, laughing and waving as they go, hidden in plain sight?